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Home » News » Comments » A Big No!

A Big No!

Publishing Date : 12 September, 2017

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We are already struggling with unemployment. Our Government should not be pushing decisions that can only worsen the situation. We must learn to separate emotions from logic. Every situation has pros and cons, it is always attempted to minimize or eliminate the latter. The decision by the Office of the President to ban music festivals is counterproductive and it should be reversed.


Festivals are at the heart of music and are at the heart of our local music industry. They form an essential part of the worlds of kwaito-kwasa, classical, folk and jazz, forming regularly occurring pivot points around which musicians, audiences, and festival organisers plan their lives. Let us not spoil this for our people, they make a living out of it.


There is no doubt that festivals are big business: literature points to total direct and indirect spend generated by ‘music tourism’ for festivals around the world at billions of Dollars, sustaining millions of full time jobs and part time jobs. Botswana is no exception, we have our brothers and sisters in their thousands who sustain their lives through music. Not just recording but also performing it live to paying audiences.


From an initial focus on the economic impacts of cultural experiences in the 1980s and 1990s, through to a broader assessment of impact which considers instrumental and intrinsic value (Carnwath and Brown 2014), the literature shows that festivals play a significant economic, social and cultural role at local and international levels. Festivals have been key to the growth of the live music sector in Botswana in recent times. The Gaborone International Music Festival (GIMC) is a case example of how festivals have grown in this country. The unfortunate incident that happened at the National Stadium during the GIMC should not make us lose focus.


“The most significant means of expanding the size of the live audience for music promoters is undoubtedly festivals, which are now the key asset in promoters’ portfolios for obvious economic reasons: the crowd size can be expanded beyond that of a venue, and economies of scale can kick in (ticketing, marketing, staging).” We agree with this statement. At a time when revenue from recording has decreased, festivals for some musicians have become an essential income stream; the record industry now launches new albums by established artists at the start of the festival season, and tries to ‘break’ new acts through key festival appearances (Anderton 2008). This is very true for our artists and musicians here in Botswana.


Much work has shown that music festivals have the capacity to generate positive economic impacts, to varying degrees, including employment and increased revenues from locals and visitors, as well as providing focal points for marketing, attracting visitors and growing the tourism sector of the local economy Festivals have played a significant role in urban ‘cultural regeneration’ (Waitt 2008), particularly in post-industrial cities in which traditional manufacturing industries have declined and in which culture is used as a means of attracting service-sector professionals (Voase 2009).


However, a focus on festivals as ‘quick fix solutions’ for economic generation can mean that city authorities may disregard the significant social value of festivals (Quinn 2005). Festivals are marketplaces (McKay 2015b) and are increasingly used as a means of advertising via branding and sponsorship (cf Oakes 2003, 2010; Anderton 2008, 2011, 2015), although their effectiveness is questioned in some studies (Rowley and Williams 2008).


Festivals are or have been remarkable sites for experimenting with alternative lifestyles and practices but they are prone to crime as evidenced by the GIMC events last weekend. They must be managed efficiently and security detail must be top notch. Some festivals have faced opposition from the government and residents, and there should be adequate legislation to ensure that promoters do not endanger lives.  


We all agree that festivals by promoting music are vehicles for celebrating, constructing and maintaining national or cultural identity. Music festivals often contribute to a positive image of a country, both internally to its residents and externally to visitors, and hence attract people to live in the place and tourists to visit. So we must be careful of a decision that will deprive us of tourism revenue!


Attending music festivals could have a positive impact on the psychological and social well-being of young adults, according to UQ researchers. A recent study of festival-goers aged 18-29 revealed the experience involves more than just the music – it provides a sense of belonging and social integration, which often continues after the event. But of course, there must caution to everything. Lets deal with criminals decisively, do not allow them to spoilt the fun for many genuine festival goers. (NB: Some of the arguments borrowed from The Impact Of British Music Festivals - From Glyndebourne To Glastonbury:An Arts and Humanities Research Council Funded Literature Review by Emma Webster and George McKay)

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